In understanding crowd psychology and its explanation of conflict and violence, there are different theoretical approaches that turn on different understandings of communication processes. There are three models of communication in the crowd worth reviewing: classic, normative, and dynamic. Classic models suggest that crowd members are influenced by an idea of emotion presented to them. Normative models suggest that influence is constrained by what is seen as consonant with group norms. And, finally, dynamic models examine how that which becomes normative in the group depends upon intergroup relations. The last of these approaches can explain the patterned, socially meaningful and yet changing nature of crowd action. Crowd action, itself, is a form of communication because it serves to shape the social understandings of participants as well as the social understandings of those beyond the crowd. It is argued that the nature and centrality of crowds contribute to the understanding and creating of social relations in society.
Questions related to identity have been central to discussions on online communication since the dawn of the Internet. One of the positions advocated by early Internet pioneers and scholars on computer-mediated communication was that online communication would differ from face-to-face communication in the way traditional markers of identity (such as gender, age, etc.) would be visible for interlocutors. It was theorized that these differences would manifest both as reduced social cues as well as greater control in the way we present ourselves to others. This position was linked to ideas about fluid identities and identity play inherent to post-modern thinking. Lately, the technological and societal developments related to online communication have promoted questions related to, for example, authenticity and traceability of identity.
In addition to the individual level, scholars have been interested in issues of social identity formation and identification in the context of online groups and communities. It has been shown, for example, how the apparent anonymity in initial interactions can lead to heightened identification/de-individuation on the group level. Another key question related to this one is the way group identity and identification with the group relates to intergroup contact in online settings. How do people perceive others’ identity, as well as their own, in such contact situations? To what extent is intergroup contact still intergroup contact, if the parties involved do not perceive it as such? As online communication continues to offer a key platform for contact between various types of social groups, questions of identity and identification remain at the forefront of scholarship into human communication behavior in technology-mediated settings.
Mikaela L. Marlow
Discourse analysis is focused on the implicit meanings found in public discourse, text, and media. In the modern era, public discourse can be assessed in political or social debates, newspapers, magazines, television, film, radio, music, and web-mediated forums (Facebook, Twitter, and other public discussion). Research across a variety of disciplines has documented that dominant social groups tend to employ certain discursive strategies when discussing minority groups. Public discourse is often structured in ways that marginalize minority groups and legitimize beliefs, values, and ideologies of more dominant groups. These discursive strategies include appealing to authority, categorization, comparison, consensus, counterfactual, disclaimers, euphemism, evidence, examples, generalizations, rhetorical questions, metaphors, national glorification, and directive speech acts. Evoking such discourse often enables prevailing dominant groups to reify majority social status, reinforce negative assumptions about minorities, and maintain a positive public social image, despite deprecating and, sometimes, dehumanizing references.
Benjamin K. Johnson
Media users exercise control over their information and entertainment environments. Selective exposure to media allows individual to choose channels and messages that satisfy their interests and motivations. A variety of selective exposure studies have assessed selective exposure to messages about ingroup versus outgroup members. Relevant theoretical perspectives include information seeking, confirmation bias, informational utility, self and affect management, reinforcing spirals, boundary expansion, exemplification, and social comparison. Each of these theories of selective exposure identifies an attitudinal or self-conceptual basis for media use yet also allows for the role of social identity or beliefs about intergroup members and interactions. In addition, the distinction between selective exposure and selective avoidance is critical for understanding intergroup media contact, as is the distinction between positive and negative portrayals of relevant social groups. Applicable findings from survey and experimental studies illustrate that age identity, sex and gender identity, and race and ethnicity all produce patterns of selective exposure in which ingroups are generally favored. Information about outgroups is more likely to be selected if it suits the situational or dispositional needs of the individual. Partisan selective exposure is also examined from an intergroup perspective, as is selective exposure to information about aspirational future selves and self-expansion. Depictions of persons that exemplify social groups or allow for social comparison are also discussed, yet little direct evidence exists about exposure to outgroup members in these processes. Finally, interpersonal new media are considered with regard to intergroup contact. Immersive media such as virtual reality provide interactive contact with outgroups, and social identity plays an important role in the distribution of user-generated content, the cultivation of online social networks, and the ongoing convergence between mass and social media. Selective exposure researchers are increasingly considering intergroup contact as an important type of media content relevant to their theories, and intergroup contact researchers are increasingly accounting for the selectivity factor in media processing and effects. Integrating key findings and building a more programmatic approach to this topic will enhance the understanding of individuals’ self-selected exposure to media about (and produced by) outgroups. Indeed, for intergroup media contact to be successful in producing less stereotyping, more positive attitudes, and more intergroup harmony, media users must first choose to come into contact with messages about outgroup members, specifically messages that can convey and produce beneficial effects for intergroup relations.